29 Absolutely Ridiculous Facts About Pablo Escobar, History’s Most Infamous Drug Kingpin

Published August 13, 2022
Updated March 28, 2024

From his pet hippos roaming Colombia to the grisly details of his death, these Pablo Escobar facts reveal the story behind history's most feared drug lord.

One of the most shared facts about Pablo Escobar is that he once burned two million dollars to keep his daughter, Manuela, warm while the family was in hiding. This one fact says a lot about Escobar’s contradictory character. He was a drug lord — and a caring father. He oversaw a cartel that killed millions — but used his wealth to help the poor.

The anecdote about Escobar burning money is far from the only fact from his life that shows Escobar’s multifaceted personality. Born poor but determined to make it rich, Escobar went to great lengths to build his wealth. After starting with petty theft, Escobar started trafficking drugs. And as a result, he became one of the richest men in the world.

What came next — for Escobar, Colombia, and the world — still fascinates to this day. Look through the gallery below to discover more facts about Pablo Escobar, and keep reading to learn about his dramatic rise and fall.

Medellin Cartel
Escobar Mugshot
Stealing Tombstones
29 Absolutely Ridiculous Facts About Pablo Escobar, History’s Most Infamous Drug Kingpin
View Gallery

The Boy With Dreams Of Riches

Pablo Escobar was born on Dec. 1, 1949, in Rionegro, Antioquia, Colombia, and grew up in a suburb of Medellín called Envigado. Though he and his cousin Gustavo Gaviria had well-educated parents, they decided to leave school and pursue a life of crime. The cousins had one goal: to make it rich.

Gaviria and Escobar were "always looking to do some business or pull off a crime to get some extra money," Escobar's son, Sebastián Marroquín, wrote in his 2016 book Pablo Escobar: My Father

The cousins stole tires and cars. They stole gravestones out of cemeteries and resold them. They even started kidnapping people. Though Escobar and Gaviria were arrested in the 1970s, their trouble with the law didn't slow them down. Instead, they next turned to an even bigger money-making scheme: in the 1980s, they started smuggling cocaine.

How Pablo Escobar Became A Drug Kingpin

Pablo Escobar first started dealing with cocaine in the 1970s, when he smuggled coca paste into Colombia, had it refined, then it sent north to be sold in the United States. Then demand for cocaine started to skyrocket in the 1980s — and Escobar struck it rich.

His ragtag group of smugglers and enforcers soon morphed into the fearsome Medellín Cartel. Escobar and his operation came up with ingenious ways to smuggle cocaine into the United States, including hiding it into legal shipments of fruit or clothing, or even mixing the drug into cocoa powder or fruit pulp, from which it could be extracted later.

As Escobar's power grew, he also balanced a normal life with his family. He married his wife, Maria Victoria Henao, and had two children with her: Juan Pablo Escobar Henao (who now goes by Sebastián Marroquín) and Manuela Escobar, (who now goes by Juana Manuela Marroquín Santos). But as the drug trader ramped up, Escobar grew richer and richer — and more ruthless.

Pablo Escobar And Family

YouTubePablo Escobar and his family in an undated photograph.

In the 1980s, Escobar's cartel pulled in an estimated $70 million a day. Pablo Escobar's net worth ballooned as a result — he was worth between $30 and $60 billion during his lifetime — and he used his riches on things like an estate dubbed Hacienda Nápoles, pet hippos, and helping Colombia's poor.

And as his power grew, Escobar protected it at any cost. It's believed that the drug kingpin was responsible for the deaths of some 4,000 people who dared stand in his way, including police officers, government officials, journalists, ordinary citizens, and members of rival cartels.

It's no surprise that he soon struck Colombian and American authorities as a serious threat. But Pablo Escobar proved to be a difficult person for them to neutralize.

Pablo Escobar's Downfall And Death

In 1991, Pablo Escobar was sent to prison. But it wasn't a prison like most criminals experience. Escobar had struck a deal with Colombian authorities in which he agreed to turn himself in on two conditions: that he wouldn't be extradited to the United States (something Escobar deeply feared) and that he could design his own prison.

The result was La Catedral (The Cathedral) and opulent and luxurious prison that included a sauna, a jacuzzi, a billiards room, and a disco. In fact, Escobar enjoyed such freedom at La Catedral that he was able to continue overseeing cartel business, and even ordered the deaths of several cartel leaders in 1992.

Helipad At La Catedral

Stefanomione/Wikimedia CommonsA helipad at La Catedral.

For Colombian authorities, this was the final straw. They decided to move Escobar to a different prison — but then the drug kingpin escaped from right under their nose.

Pablo Escobar and his family were on the run for about a year and a half, pursued by both a Colombian police unit known as the Search Bloc and a group that called themselves "Perseguidos por Pablos Escobar" — "People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar" — or Los Pepes. And in December 1993, the two groups finally tracked Pablo Escobar down.

They cornered him on a rooftop in the Los Olivos barrio of Medellín. Pablo Escobar died at the age of 44 after being shot several times, though it's unknown which group killed him (and some believe that Escobar, cornered and with no options left to him, decided to die by suicide).

With that, Pablo Escobar was dead. But his legacy looms large over Colombia to this day.

The Drug Lord's Lingering Legacy

After Pablo Escobar's death, some 25,000 people attended his funeral. These included many of the people who Escobar had supported financially — including Colombia's poor. For them, he was a "Robin Hood" figure who had shown generosity and compassion by sharing his wealth.

Pablo Escobar Graffiti In Colombia

Jan Sochor / Alamy Stock PhotoPablo Escobar graffiti Medellín, Colombia.

But for many other people — including the loved ones of the 4,000 people Escobar and his cartel killed — he remains a villain, someone who wrecked violence and destruction in Colombia and beyond.

Indeed, Pablo Escobar himself purportedly lived by the mantra of "plata o plomo" which translates to "silver or lead (bullets). Though he could be a caring figure, both toward Colombia's poor and toward his own family, he was ultimately a powerful and ruthless drug kingpin who stopped at nothing to get his way.

Discover more facts about Pablo Escobar in the gallery above.

Enjoy these fascinating Pablo Escobar facts that reveal the story of Colombia's "King of Cocaine"? Then check out our other posts on amazing facts and then check out these insane narco Instagram photos from Mexico's most feared cartels.

All That's Interesting
Established in 2010, All That's Interesting brings together a dedicated staff of digital publishing veterans and subject-level experts in history, true crime, and science. From the lesser-known byways of human history to the uncharted corners of the world, we seek out stories that bring our past, present, and future to life. Privately-owned since its founding, All That's Interesting maintains a commitment to unbiased reporting while taking great care in fact-checking and research to ensure that we meet the highest standards of accuracy.
Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a dual degree in American History and French.